Alumbrados

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The alumbrados (Spanish pronunciation: [alumˈbɾaðos], Illuminated) was a term used to loosely describe practitioners of a mystical form of Christianity in Spain during the 15th-16th centuries. Some alumbrados were only mildly heterodox, but others held views that were clearly heretical. Consequently, they were firmly repressed and became some of the early victims of the Spanish Inquisition.

Background[edit]

The historian Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo found the name as early as 1492 (in the form aluminados, 1498), and traced the group to a Gnostic origin. He thought their views were promoted in Spain through influences from Italy.[1]

Beliefs[edit]

The alumbrados held that the human soul can reach such a degree of perfection that it can even in the present life contemplate the essence of God and comprehend the mystery of the Trinity. All external worship, they declared, is superfluous, the reception of the sacraments useless, and sin impossible in this state of complete union with God. Persons in this state of impeccability could indulge their sexual desires and commit other sinful acts freely without staining their souls.[2]

In 1525, the Inquisition issued an Edict on the alumbrados in which the Inquisitor General, Alonso Manrique de Lara, explained how the new heresy of alumbradismo was discovered and investigated. The text then gave a numbered list of forty-eight heretical propositions which had emerged from the trials of the alumbrados' first leaders, Isabella de la Cruz and Pedro Ruiz d Alcaraz. After each proposition were given the grounds on which it was judged heretical. Among the odder of these propositions are that it is a mortal sin to read a book to console one's soul (No. 31), which the Inquisition's theologians described as "crazy, erroneous, and even heretical"; and that one sinned mortally every time one loved a son, daughter, or other person, and did not love that person through God (No. 36), which the theologians said was "erroneous and false, and against the common teaching of the saints". One alumbrado, seeing a girl cross the street, said that "she had sinned, because in that action she had fulfilled her will" (No. 40). The theologians commented: "The foundation of this proposition is heretical, because it seems to state that all action that proceeds from our will is sin."[3]

Historical cases[edit]

A labourer's daughter known as La Beata de Piedrahita, born in Salamanca, came to the notice of the Inquisition in 1511, by claiming to hold colloquies with Jesus and the Virgin Mary; some high patronage saved her from a rigorous denunciation.[1] She is often, as The Catholic Encyclopedia cautiously notes, "cited as an early adherent" of the alumbrados' errors, though "it is not certain that she was guilty of heresy".[2] Some recent scholars, like the Dominican historian and theologian Álvaro Huerga, who takes a relatively favorable view of her, question, on chronological and other grounds, the tendency to associate her with that movement, seeing her rather as "pre-alumbrados".[4]

Henry Charles Lea, in his A History of the Inquisition in Spain, mentions, among the more extravagant alumbrados, a priest from Seville named Fernando Méndez, who had acquired a special reputation for sanctity: "he taught his disciples to invoke his intercession, as though he were already a saint in heaven; fragments of his garments were treasured as relics; he gathered a congregation of beatas and, after mass in his oratory, they would strip off their garments and dance with indecent vigor — drunk with the love of God — and, on some of his female penitents, he would impose the penance of lifting their skirts and exposing themselves before him."[5] Méndez died before the Inquisition could bring him to trial.

Ignatius of Loyola, while studying at Salamanca in 1527, was brought before an ecclesiastical commission on a charge of sympathy with the alumbrados, but escaped with an admonition. Miguel de Molinos was also accused of sympathy owing to some similarities between his book The Spiritual Guide and the teachings of the early alumbrados, Isabella de la Cruz and Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz.

Persecution[edit]

Their persecution, by Inquisitional standards, was not particularly severe. Those convicted of engaging in the mystical practices and heresy of the alumbrados were not executed, few endured long-term sentences, and most were tried only after they managed to acquire large congregations in Toledo or Salamanca. Not all, however, were so fortunate. In 1529 a congregation of naïve adherents at Toledo was subjected to whippings and imprisonment. Greater rigors followed, and for about a century alleged connection with the alumbrados sent many to the Inquisition, especially at Córdoba. In spite of this determined action, however, the heresy maintained itself until the middle of the 17th century.[2] The connection of later alumbrados, whose practices varied in different places, to the original alumbrados, Isabella de la Cruz and Pedro Ruiz del Alcaraz, is debatable, but the continuing influence of their teachings is not improbable.

Illuminés of France[edit]

The movement (under the name of Illuminés) seems to have reached France from Seville in 1623, and attained some following in Picardy when joined (1634) by Pierce Guerin, curé of Saint-Georges de Roye, whose followers, known as Guerinets, were suppressed in 1635.

A century later, another, more obscure body of Illuminés came to light in the south of France in 1722, and appears to have lingered till 1794, having affinities with those known contemporaneously in the United Kingdom as 'French Prophets', an offshoot of the Camisards.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Menéndez y Pelayo, Marcelino (1880). Historia de los heterodoxos españoles. Madrid. pp. II, 521–585; III, 403–408. 
  2. ^ a b c Weber, Nicholas. "Illuminati (Alumbrados.)". Archived from the original on 17 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  3. ^ Homza, Lu Ann (editor and translator). The Spanish Inquisition 1478-1614: An Anthology of Sources. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2006, pp. 80-92.
  4. ^ Huerga, Álvaro. "Los pre-alumbrados y la Beata de Piedrahíta", Historia de la Iglesia, Vol. XVII. Valencia: EDICEP, 1974, pp. 529-533. (In Spanish)
  5. ^ Lea, Henry Charles. A History of the Inquisition of Spain, Vol. 4, Book 8, Chapter 5, pp. 29-30.

References[edit]

  • Menéndez y Pelayo, Marcelino (1880). Historia de los heterodoxos españoles. Madrid. pp. II, 521–585; III, 403–408. 
  • "Illuminati". The Catholic Encyclopedia 16. New York: The Encyclopedia Press. 1914. 

Bibliography[edit]

López de Rojas, Gabriel. Sectas y órdenes. Martínez Roca (2007). ISBN 978-84-270-3405-1

Alastair Hamilton (1 January 1992). Heresy and Mysticism in Sixteenth-Century Spain: the Alumbrados. James Clarke. ISBN 978-0-227-67921-0. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 

External links[edit]